Sunday, July 19, 2015

Taco Hunt: Empellon Al Pastor | East Village

You know when you find a certain street where you seem to love everything on that block? For me, that was Saint Marks Street in the East Village, particularly the block between Avenue A and First Ave. From bars, to food and even my favorite park – you’ll find it all there! A few months ago a new taco shop opened up, Empellon Al Pastor, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to check it out until now.

 We must have arrived at an awkward time for a Sunday (around 4pm) because the place was empty – the first time I’ve seen it that way. I’m not sure if their service is always as quick, or if the emptiness had something to do with it, but they were super fast. Our food and drinks started rolling out about 10 minutes after we placed our order at the bar.

For those of you not familiar with Empellon, they have a few different locations around New York – each with a different spin. This location’s specialty is their al pastor meat – slow roasted pork marinated in a spicy pineapple sauce. Naturally, I ordered one of those along with a steak and a nopales taco. To my surprise both the steak and nopales tacos were a bit of a let down. The steak was a bit too dry and the nopales were light on the actual nopal and covered in a red sauce that was a little too bitter for my taste.  Regardless, their signature taco, the al pastor was clearly a shining star among the rest. The meat was rich in flavor, tender and had me wishing I had ordered a few more of those. I totally get why they named this location after it!

Another thing I enjoyed about this place was their drink selection, especially that they had a few different options of micheladas (beer cocktails). I ordered the house michelada, which was a little sweeter than I was used to but ended up really enjoying. I may be a little more adventurous next time and try their funkier options like the Michelote (elote, eh?!) or the Chambovaca (beef broth + Tecate? Oy!)

Despite my initial disappointment in a few of the tacos I ordered, I would still give Empellon Al Pastor another try – their al pastor was that good!


Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of other great places to try on Saint Marks. Here are my top three bar recommendations:

1. Augurs Well
This was one of my first favorite bars in New York that I still love till this day. They offer a wide selection of craft beers and have a super laid back atmosphere, but what I love the most about this place are their bartenders. Greg, the bar owner, Daniel (who recently left back to California to pursue his master’s degree), and the rest of the staff make it a point to get to know their patrons. In a city where life can get a little lonely at times, things like that go a long way.

2. Bua
If you’ve ever walked down Saint Marks you’ll know that Bua is always packed, and with good reason. Their friendly bar tenders, delicious eats and tasty drinks make it a must-try. Not to mention they are one of the few bars on the block with a small outdoor porch. Their cucumber gimlet, palomas, and spicy Modelos are a few of my go tos! As strange as it may sound, I also love their bathroom doors. Give them a visit and you’ll know what I mean!

3. V Bar St. Marks
Need an after work sit-down place for small bites and drinks? V Bar is your place! Their corner location on First Ave and Saint Marks makes it a perfect place for people watching while enjoying a few treats. I'd personally recommend their truffle fries – so good!

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